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Issue #1929      August 24, 2020

New threat to democracy

Statement by Communist Party of Australia

Statement originally appeared in Tribune August, 1965

A plan for a major attack on cherished Australian democratic rights, particularly the public right to criticise government policies, lies behind the Liberal Party’s call for a “White Paper on Communism.”

This would be a government publication, issued under Parliamentary privilege (and so, safe from libel suits), in which individuals of many walks of life and viewpoints, together with Communists, would be slandered by means of false allegations of “sabotage”, “treason”, “dupes” and “fellow-travellers.”

Announced last Friday by former Inner Cabinet Minister McBride on behalf of the Federal Council of the main federal government party, the scheme is significantly timed.

It follows immediately on:

The upsurge of critical public discussion and opposition to the government’s policy on Vietnam, embracing many prominent spokesmen of the Australian Labor Party, trade unions, university life, the churches, the arts and many other spheres.

The Communist Party is certainly not alone in opposing the Vietnam war and the foreign policy or reliance on military force in south-east Asia.

Mounting campaigns for satisfaction of wage, salary and pension demands by all sections of the working people, to meet spiralling price inflation, the Arbitration Commission’s wage freeze and now the government’s new tax burdens of the war budget. The national trade union movement is united around these demands, and has the backing of the ALP. The Communist Party is certainly not alone in working for these campaigns for the betterment of the working people’s lives.

Real aim revealed

Sir Philip McBride revealed the real aim of the “White Paper” scheme when he claimed it was necessary to expose activities “behind so-called fronts”.

He meant movements and organisations like those campaigning for peace in south-east Asia – such as the 513 members of Australian university staffs who have signed a petition to Sir Robert Menzies, the Liberal Party’s leader, who recently said that all peace activities in Australia were “Communist-inspired.”

McBride further showed the government’s hand when he referred to “mischievous operations ‘in the trade union movement.’ ”

Recent open threats of the use of the Crimes Act (Arbitration Judge Gallagher) and of “drastic action” (Federal Labor Minister McMahon.), directed against legitimate, trade union action, particularly by the waterside workers, provide the significant background to this statement by McBride.

Spokesmen of the ACTU and major national “white collar” organisations last week had to sharply reprimand Minister McMahon for an equally pointed statement that union criticisms of the basic wage decision were the fault of “international Communism.”

The “White Paper” would aim at softening up public resistance to the increase of punitive powers against trade unions, foreshadowed by Minister McMahon on 11th July.

As to McBride’s attacks on the Communist Party of Australia – its “anti-Australian program, “contempt for law”, “sabotage and intimidation” – all this is so much eyewash, a mere excuse to open a campaign of hysteria and unconcealed “intimidation” against the big public movement of opposition to foreign and home policies.

Policies are patriotic

The Communist Party’s campaigns for an independent Australian foreign policy for peace and friendship with Asia, for democratic rights, higher living standards, Australian ownership of Australia’s resources and for socialism, are deeply patriotic.

Only such policies can lead to the security and prosperity our nation desires and needs.

We reject, too, Sir Philip McBride’s absurd claim that the Communist Party has a “concept that a revolutionary minority seizes power by force and terror.”

The aims of our Party can only be realised by the will of the majority of the people and our efforts are directed toward, securing the support of the Australian people.

As for our so-called “contempt for the law” and “sabotage” we have no doubt that if there were only the slightest truth in this the Menzies Government would have used the law against us.

For months past, the “White Paper” demand has been peddled by extreme rightist groups like the National Civic Council and the top leadership of the Returned Servicemen’s League.

NCC leader Santamaria, who nearly three months ago reported that the White Paper had already been drafted, has frequently disclaimed the aim of a ban on the Communist Party but advocated instead that a White Paper “exposure of Communist ‘fronts’ would strike at both the guilty and the gullible.” (News-Weekly, June 10, 1965)

The Menzies government itself demonstrated its methods first in 1950-51 in its unsuccessful campaign to place a ban on the Communist Party.

Prominent figures in the trade union movement and Labor Party were publicly branded by government spokesmen in a McCarthyite fashion then, and later in the notorious Petrov Commission.

NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT!

Because the Australian people recognised the sweeping, anti-democratic nature of such anti-Communist proposals, the government was defeated in the 1951 Referendum on the issue.

As a result, the Communist Party remained a legal party.

Its policy and activity are open to public view and discussion in its many publications, such as the recent booklet on Vietnam, which challenged the Liberal to debate the issue – a challenge they evaded.

The “White Paper” plan has emerged into the open, from Liberal Party HQ, rather than from the Cabinet Room, precisely because the Government (mindful of 1951) is still testing out public opinion.

This should , be seen as a warning to all democratic Australians, and an opportunity to express, in the shortest possible time, public opposition to this plan.

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